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Was Donald Trump advised against designating Morocco’s PJD a terror group ?

Earlier in May, President Donald Trump designed Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization. According to media reports, the American President was advised against considering Morocco’s PJD when thinking of the decision.

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On Sunday, Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddine El othmani, who is also PJD’s Secretary General, said in a conference that his party does not have ties with Qatar and Turkey, two main allies of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Speaking in Tangier, El Othmani said that PJD is not really close, as rumored, to Qatar and Turkey, adding that the party cannot be close to a country but to a political formation instead. Moreover, the head of the government explained that the only thing that his party and Turkey’s Justice and Development Party have in common is their names.

On Monday, following El Othmani's statement, Arabic-language newspaper Al-Massae wrote that US intelligence officials have advised President Donald Trump against designating Morocco’s Justice and Development Party (PJD) a foreign terrorist organization, quoting an American official.

The same officials have urged Trump to give a wide berth to the Kingdom’s PJD and Tunisia’s Ennahda Party when considering the designation of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which was dubbed a terrorist group by the White House earlier in May.

The Muslim Brotherhood and PJD's positions

According to the daily newspaper, US intelligence officials told the American President that taking similar decisions must consider the activities of these groups and not just their ideologies. Citing the same American official, Al-Massae revealed that some parties within the Trump Administration believe that PJD is close to the Muslim Brotherhood.

El Othmani’s explanation comes as the Trump Administration announced that designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization will allow the United States to impose sanctions on people and entities that are connected to the group. Although Morocco’s PJD rules out closeness with the Muslim Brotherhood, the party has been supportive to the group several times in the past.

On August 18th, 2013, PJD members, including the wife of former Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, rallied in the streets of Rabat to denounce the way in which Egyptian security forces raided a protesters camp at the Rabaa Adawiya Square. In the Parliament, PJD MP Abdellah Bouanou urged other MPs at the House of Representatives to hold a special session to discuss the events in Egypt. His request, however, was ignored.

In March 2014, and during the sidelines of the 25th Arab League summit in Kuwait, Benkirane was almost going to create a diplomatic crisis with Egypt, when he left the conference room at the moment Egyptian acting President Adly Mansour was delivering his speech.

But since then, Morocco’s Islamist party changed its «position» on the Muslim Brotherhood, adopting a more pragmatic one. «It is a phase that ended (…) and I do not want to address it», Benkirane said, answering a question asked by a reporter from American channel Al Hurra on former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

In November 2016, former head of Movement of Unity and Reform, the social movement branch of PJD Ahmad Raissouni told media that he was happy with Morsi’s fall. «I was happy because the presidency came in a bad timing, it was a mistake», he said.

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